TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017
MANAFORT WIRETAPPED UNDER SECRET COURT ORDERS
President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was wiretapped under secret court orders before and after the election, CNN reports. The surveillance continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump. Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, though sources cautioned CNN that the evidence is not conclusive.
A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party. It ceased at some point for lack of evidence, and then was restarted under a new FISA order. CNN
The New York Times also reports that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appears to be zeroing in on Manafort, revealing that after a July raid on Manafort’s residence in Virginia, Mueller’s prosecutors warned Manafort that he would be indicted. The story also reports that Mueller’s team has subpoenaed several of Manafort’s associates, including Jason Maloni, a former Manafort spokesman; the heads of Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group; and one of Manafort’s former lawyers (with Mueller’s team claiming an exception to attorney-client privilege). While White House officials have been given the opportunity to appear for “voluntary interviews” instead of before grand juries, Manafort’s associates have been subpoenaed. New York Times
The reports come on the heels of news that Facebook has handed over Russian-linked ads run on the social network during the presidential election, after Mueller and his team obtained a search warrant for the information. Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users. CNN
The Latest Scoops -- A Quick and Dirty Analysis
TRUMP TO LAY OUT ‘AMERICA FIRST’ VISION AT THE UNITED NATIONS
President Donald Trump’s first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday will lay out a foreign policy rooted in his view of nationalism and sovereignty and anchored by “America First” principles, according to early reports.
He will call for more burden sharing and cooperation among countries on issues including the fight on terrorism, North Korea’s nuclear and military threat, and Iran’s adherence to a multinational nuclear deal.
He will reportedly give special attention to the Iranian people during his speech — signaling that he sees them as not only separate from their Islamist government, but as a threat to its survival.
On Monday, in brief opening remarks, he said the United Nations had not lived up to its billing upon its creation in 1945, asserting that it suffered from a bloated bureaucracy and “mismanagement.” Trump urged his fellow leaders to make reforms aimed at “changing business as usual,” but pledged that his administration would be “partners in your work.”
“Make the United Nations great,” the president told reporters when asked about his message this week, riffing off his campaign slogan. “Not again. Make the United Nations great.” Wall Street Journal
, Washington Post
Trump Says He Wants Massive Military Parade Down Pennsylvania Avenue
SENATE PASSES $700 BILLION DEFENSE BILL, MORE THAN TRUMP SOUGHT
In a rare act of bipartisanship, the Senate passed a $700 billion defense policy bill on Monday that sets forth a muscular vision of America as a global power, with a Pentagon budget that far exceeds what President Trump has asked for.
The $700 billion total -- which includes defense-related programs such as the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons arsenal -- is about $61 billion more than the $639 billion, including war spending, than Trump requested. The measure would authorize 94 F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp., 24 more than requested by the president and seven more than the House agreed to in its version of the bill.
Senators voted 89-9 to approve the measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act; the House has already adopted a similar version.
In arguing for the increased funding, Sen. John McCain, who shepherded the bill, cited a string of recent deadly accidents involving the military, including a collision last month between an oil tanker and the destroyer John S. McCain, named for the senator’s father and grandfather. Ten sailors were killed and five others injured. Bloomberg
, New York Times
Engineer who sold military secrets sentenced:
A satellite engineer who sold military secrets to an undercover FBI agent he believed to be a Russian spy was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison. Gregory Allen Justice, 50, made news after his arrest for when court documents indicated he told the undercover agent that he “wanted to try to build the type of relationship depicted in the TV show ‘The Americans.’” Los Angeles Times
IRAQ’S TOP COURT SUSPENDS KURDISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM
Iraq’s top court on Monday temporarily suspended the northern Kurdish region’s referendum on independence set for Sept. 25, a decision that will put further pressure on the Iraqi Kurds to call off the controversial vote.
The court’s move came in response to at least two lawsuits challenging the planned vote. One was filed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The Supreme Court in Baghdad released a statement, saying it “issued a national order to suspend the referendum procedures ... until the resolution of the cases regarding the constitutionality of said decision.”
It was not immediately clear if the local government in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region would abide by the court’s ruling. Time
IRAN SMUGGLING POTENT WEAPONS INTO YEMEN
The top American admiral in the Middle East said on Monday that Iran continues to smuggle illicit weapons and technology into Yemen, stoking the civil strife there and enabling Iranian-backed rebels to fire missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia that are more precise. The officer, Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, said that Iran is sustaining the Houthis with an increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border.
“These types of weapons did not exist in Yemen before the conflict,” said Admiral Donegan. “It’s not rocket science to conclude that the Houthis are getting not only these systems but likely training and advice and assistance in how to use them.” New York Times
U.S. TO SEND 3,000 MORE TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday the United States would send over 3,000 troops to Afghanistan and that most were either on their way or had been notified of their deployment. BBC News
, NBC News
SHOW OF FORCE AIMED AT NORTH KOREA
The Pentagon deployed a formation of 14 bombers and fighters over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday that also included South Korean and Japanese aircraft, the latest show of force in response to North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests. The aircraft carried out a simulated attack on the Pilsung training range in South Korea, a few dozen miles from the demilitarized zone separating the North and South, while using live bombs. The U.S. and Japanese jets also flew in formation over waters near Kyushu, Japan, a southern portion of the country that is the closest major island to the Korean Peninsula. Washington Post
New York Times:
Mattis Leaves Door Open to Military Options in North Korea
‘Grave fears’ over fate of 1,300 ISIS wives and children:
The Norwegian Refugee Council said in a statement Monday that it has "grave fears" for the safety of more than 1,300 foreign women and children — the family members of suspected ISIS fighters, after the group was moved from a camp south of Mosul to an area north of the city that was freed from ISIS control three months ago. NPR
On the Ground in Iraq, the War Against ISIS Is Just Getting Started
BRITAIN’S AUDIENCE FOR EXTREMIST PROPAGANDA
Online jihadist propaganda attracts more clicks in Britain than in any other European country and the main internet companies are failing to curb it, according to a report by a UK think tank.
Policy Exchange, a center-right research institute, said that ISIS online output, contrary to previous claims, is not falling but has remained consistent over the past three years. The jihadist are increasingly relying on “swarmcast” technology – an interconnected network that constantly reconfigures itself and is highly resilient to disruption. ISIS is still producing, at a conservative estimate, about 100 items of new content each week, including execution videos and bomb-making instructions, despite big military defeats in Iraq and Syria. Guardian
Trump’s surge in Afghanistan:
“The reality is that the United States is best off keeping a residual force in Afghanistan—but not escalating, as Trump plans to do,” write Daniel Byman
and Steven Simon
in Foreign Affairs
. “The small, on-the-ground force should focus on counterterrorism and on training the Afghan military. Such efforts will not stop the Taliban from gaining de facto control over much of the country, but they will manage to keep terrorist groups weak and help the Afghan government avoid total defeat.”
What Trump’s lawyer’s big mouth tells us about the Mueller probe:
“Trump’s lawyer, like his client, has a big mouth — coupled with a pronounced deficit of self-restraint. And his imprudent lunchtime conversation could have huge implications for the Russia probe,” writes Sarah Posner
in the Washington Post
. “If the documents that Cobb referenced in that conversation indeed exist, they could well provide special counsel Robert Mueller with crucial evidence about Trump’s thinking as Mueller investigates whether the president obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey. And now the world — including Mueller — is alerted to the possibility that relevant documents are locked away in the White House.”
An enemy combatant case? What might happen next:
“DOD has confirmed that an (as-yet-unidentified) American citizen is being held in U.S. military custody in Syria or Iraq as an enemy combatant,” writes Robert Chesney
. “How significant is this from a legal perspective?” I see four possibilities for moving forward.
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief